Utilizing Socials Skills Groups and Video Modeling to increase social skills in students diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).
Imagine moving right before the start of high
school, sitting in a classroom on the first
day of high school as a freshman, not knowing
any of the other students.
While the teacher goes through his introductory
spiel, a classmate, seemingly out of nowhere,
stands up and begins screaming at the teacher,
for no apparent reason, before storming out
of the door in a rage.
A classmate is overheard saying, “He’s
This is just what he does.”
While it is known that people have autism
or are on the spectrum, the fact remains that
the entire subject of autism remains a mystery
to those outside of the world of autism.
The question then begs to ask: What is autism?
De Bruin, Deppeler, Moore, and Diamond (2013),
remark how “autism is a complex disorder
that is defined behaviorally by difficulties
with social interaction and language difficulties
as well as repetitive behaviors and thinking”
While these definitions tend to be the overall
definitions for anyone diagnosed with Autism
Spectrum Disorder (ASD), the fact remains
that every person with ASD is unique.
Dr. Stephen Shore is autism expert, and he
also happens to be on the spectrum.
He once stated that, “Once you’ve met
one person with autism, you’ve met one person
with autism” (“What Autism Can Look Like”,
As is such, because every person with ASD
is so unique, a specialized plan must be put
in place for these individuals.
With that said, while people with ASD require
a different need across behavioral, language
and academic settings, the fact remains that
people with ASD lack social skills across
For academic, language and behavioral needs,
a variety of interventions and implements
exist, including Applied Behavioral Analysis
for concerning behaviors, speech and language
therapy sessions with a Speech and Language
Therapist, as well as tutoring and extra supports
within the school setting for academic concerns.
Unfortunately, the same cannot be said if
a person requires assistance functioning in
a social setting.
Comparatively speaking, requiring social skills
may not seem as big of a concern, when compared
to academic and behavioral concerns; however,
the fact remains that maintaining proper socials
skills are just as important as maintaining
appropriate behaviors and seeking help academically.
Therefore, it is just as imperative to address
social skills, in a school based setting,
as it is to address behavioral and academic
Two school based social skills interventions
that will be discussed include social skills
group instruction, as well as video modeling.
Of all the different methods of intervention,
“small group instruction may be considered
more efficient than one-on-one training, as
it provides increased opportunities for observational
learning and feedback and allows for similar
deficits to be addressed across participants”
(Radley et. al., 2017, p. 234).
Students with ASD are able to work with other
students with ASD in a small group setting,
presenting a welcoming and non-threatening
What’s more is that these students would
have their group led by a very capable teacher
who would provide immediate feedback while
in the group setting, in addition to a multitude
of other benefits.
Radley (2017) notes that:
Inclusion of peers with similar deficits provides
individuals with ASD with opportunities to
practice target skills and receive feedback,
allows for diverse training, provides opportunities
for participants to contact natural consequences
for social skill use, and may maximize practitioner
assets by allowing social deficits to be addressed
in a resource-efficient manner, regardless
of diagnostic category.
Small group social skills instructional groups
enable students to work with similar students.
Furthermore, these students will be able to
practice skills with other students like them,
potentially forging friendships that these
students desperately desire.
While having social skills interventions in
a small group setting is beneficial to the
students attending the group, there still
remains an apprehension about how well the
topics discussed during group sessions will
occur in the general education setting.
Discussions can be held, and certain concepts
can be practiced.
However, once the students leave the small
group setting, there is no guarantee that
the skills practiced during group will continue
to be practiced outside of group.
To alleviate this matter, one method that
could enhance the small group setting would
be to incorporate a typically developing peer.
“Inclusion of peers in social skills training
may promote skill generalization by providing
participants with natural consequences of
social skill use…allowing for incorporation
of stimulating from training settings into
generalized environments, and training responses
to diverse stimuli” (Radley et. al., 2017,
By enabling typically developing peers to
attend the small group focused on social skills,
the students with ASD will be able to practice
the skills learned during group.
Furthermore, scenarios can be played out that
very well could happen outside of group, while
maintaining a very safe environment to practice
the learned skills.
In the meantime, another intervention that
could be utilized would be to demonstrate
imitation through video modeling.
Similar to utilizing typically developing
peers, video modeling serves as another mode
With the rise of technology, video modeling
seems to be an effective alternative to the
traditional methods of lecture-based learning.
“Another teaching method, video modeling
(VM), has also proven successful in teaching
imitation to children with autism and children
also have demonstrated generalization beyond
the teaching context” (Cardon & Wilcox,
2010, pp. 645-655).
Not only are students engaged in the video
modeling, but there also has been results
that indicate an increase in generalization
of skills, as well.
While traditional lecture-based learning focuses
on the teacher providing a live example/model
of a skill with students then expected to
imitate, “VM is the presentation of previously
recorded video footage of a model performing
a certain behavior used to evoke new behaviors
from participants, and it has been used to
train a variety of skills in both children
and adults” (McDowell et. al., 2015, p.
The added benefit of this intervention is
that the videos can be viewed in any setting.
Students are not restricted to witnessing
the modeling only at school; rather, these
students now have the opportunity to view
videos at school, at home, and in the community.
Here is an example of a video modeling technique
that could be used to teach students appropriate
(knocks on door)
Was that a good greeting?
(knocks on door)
Why doesn't Tori say "hi" to me?
That was pretty rude.
Maybe Tori just isn't a very nice person.
It's important to greet people you know when
you see them.
It shows them that you're being friendly and
you want to talk to them.
If we don't use appropriate greetings, our
friends may be confused or they may have weird
or negative thoughts about us.
Let's watch Tori try again.
(knocks on door)
Who is it?
Oh, hi Katrina!
I'm glad you're here!
I'm glad to be here too.
Come on in!
That was really friendly of Tori to say!
I like talking to Tori.
That was so much better!
When you see someone you know, look at their
eyes, and say, "hello!".
For both types of interventions, limitations
In terms of social skills groups, the students
with ASD could choose not to participate,
on account of feeling uncomfortable, despite
being in a small group setting.
Furthermore, if the students with ASD like
neither the teacher nor the typically developing
peers participating in the group, then this
may prove to act as a roadblock, as well.
In terms of the video modeling intervention,
students may not have access to technology,
which could limit the availability for when
and where the videos would be utilized.
Though research exists, and though studies
have been conducted on the effectiveness of
school based social skills intervention, in
addition to providing a variety of different
interventions, the fact remains that more
research and even further studies need to
Future studies and research could consider
how social skills interventions impact students
With that said, the studies and research also
should consider students with ASD who have
another disability in addition to being autistic,
such as ASD with a learning disability, a
physical disability, or even a pre-existing
medical condition that affects learning.
Furthermore, future studies and research should
look at a variety of students, both male and
female, across a span of ages, from preschool
age through to high school age students.
By looking at a variety of students with disabilities
across the board, on top of having ASD, and
by diversifying the ages studied, the results
that would come to light would enable for
Although more research and more studies need
to be conducted, the fact remains that school
based social skills intervention enables students
diagnosed with ASD to learn about appropriate
social skills, while also being given the
opportunity to practice these skills in a
“Given that children with ASD fail to acquire
appropriate social skills and may lack opportunities
for positive peer interactions, explicit training
in a group format is a rational intervention”
(White et. al., 2006, p. 1859).
Therefore, by being part of a social skills
group, students will be able to acquire the
social skills they lack, especially if a variety
of practices and resources are utilized during
Employing video modeling and having typically
developing peers take part in the social skills
groups are just two examples of the resources
that can be used as part of social skills
What’s more is that both of the interventions
can occur concurrently, enabling school based
interventions to have the potential of “improving
the quality of school experiences, engagement
in inclusive education and employment, independent
living, and social relationships of young
people with an ASD” (de Bruin et. al., 2013,
Students with ASD will have the opportunity
to have a better schooling experience, while
also giving them the social skills needed
to succeed in the community, thereby expanding
the potential for success tenfold.